Hans H. Hildebrand, Albert Röhr, Hans-Otto Steinmetz, Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe. Biographien – ein Spiegel der Marinegeschichte von 1815 bis zur Gegenwart, Band 3, 3. Auflage, Ratingen (n.y.);
Eckard Schinkel, Der Konflikt um das Linienschiff KAISER FRIEDRICH III. – Rudolph Haack als Gutachter im Konflikt zwischen Kaiser Wilhelm II., Reichsmarineamt und Marinekabinett, in: Eckard Schinkel, / Lars U. Scholl (publ.), Rudolph Haack (1833-1909). Industriepionier unter drei Kaisern, Bremen 2009, pp. 87-97;
Thomas Kemper, Schloss Monbijou. Von der königlichen Residenz zum Hohenzollern-Museum, 2004, pp. 223-230
Prinz Albert Wilhelm Heinrich von Preussen or Prince Henry of Prussia, Generalinspekteur der Marine (born Albert Wilhelm Heinrich, 14 August 1862-20 April 1929) was a younger brother of German Emperor William II and a Prince of Prussia. Being a career naval officer, he held various commands in the Imperial German Navy and eventually rose to the rank of Grand Admiral.
The warship SMS KAISER FRIEDRICH III was the lead ship of the Kaiser-Klasse, later name 'alte Kaiser-Klasse' or 'Kaiser-Friedrich-Klasse'. Its keel was laid down in March 1895 as 1st class ironclad in the Imperial Dockyard Wilhelmshaven. Its dockyard name was “Ersatz Preußen” and it was the replacement for the old ironclad SMS PREUSSEN (1873). The launch took place on 1st July 1896. Emperor Wilhelm II launched the ship in person, in the name of his father.
Emperor Wilhelm II was very enthusiastic during the building process and wanted to influence the design of the ship. While the new class of ships was already being planned Wilhelm II continuously transmitted new ideas and new plans to the navy ministry which was directly subordinate to him. According to one story the Emperor one night asked the whole of Berlin to search for his former art master, the landscape and marine painter Prof. Carl Saltzmann, who he needed to help him with the drawings of his ideas. The Imperial privy civil servant Hugo Schunke was responsible for the constructive planning.
The Imperial Admiralty which represented the marine affairs in the Reichstag and had to apply for budget resources had different ideas regarding the sense and design of the new class of ships. Therefore the Emperor’s plans were viewed with some criticism. In December 1893 the Chief constructing engineer Alfred Dietrich called them ‘impossible to execute’, which led to a conflict between the two parties and endangered the development of this new ship’s class.
The State Secretary of the Imperial Admiralty, Admiral Friedrich von Hollmann, asked the naval engineer Rudolf Haack who worked for the Vulcan Maschinenbau incorporated company in Stettin, for an impartial examination of the designs. Haack rejected the Emperor’s ideas in a report from 15th August 1894 as not recommendable for implementation because according to his calculations the stability of the ship would be insufficient. As the Imperial Admiralty also had to give up some of their planning the two parties approached each other again and the appearances of a constructive cooperation were kept up. Subsequently the conditions of the structural design for the “Ersatz Preußen” were signed by the Emperor on 20th August 1894 and the construction started a few months later.
The first commissioning of the SMS KAISER FRIEDRICH III took place in October 1898; but it was only in October 1899 that after a longer test phase and some amendments the ship actively took part in the fleet. Officially it took over the duty as flagship of the 2nd division of the 1st squadron, although the transfer of the flag only took place in January 1900. Further the ship had a special duty; in November and December 1899 it was the convoying ship of the Imperial yacht Hohenzollern with which the Imperial couple travelled to England to visit Queen Victoria.
After Vice Admiral Prince Heinrich of Preussen was appointed chief of the 1st squadron in September 1900 he made the SMS KAISER FRIEDRICH III his permanent flagship on 1st November 1900. The ship held this position until the prince was replaced by Admiral Hans von Koester in September 1903. It is almost certainly on this occasion that the present model was presented to Prince Heinrich as a gift from the officers of his squadron.
On the night of 1st April 1901 the ship was severely damaged on the Adlergrund shallows (north of the island Rügen) when the ship was steaming from Danzig to Kiel. Caused by this massive grounding half of the ship’s base was torn and the keel plate and rudder post were broken. During the work to mend the leak a fire broke out in one of the stokeholds which was extinguished by flooding. Luckily nobody was killed during the accident and subsequent fire, however the repair work lasted until the new first commissioning on 1st November 1901.
After the SMS KAISER FRIEDRICH III lost its flagship function it took part in several exercises and manoeuvres until it became the 1st flagship of 2nd squadron on 1st October 1904. Exactly one year later, the ship returned to the 1st squadron and became flagship of the 2nd Admiral. It lost this position in 1906 and in 1907 ceased to be involved in active service. From 1908 extensive modernisation took place. Active use of SMS KAISER FRIEDRICH III only resumed in the summer 1910, when it became flagship of the temporarily formed 3rd squadron. After the disbanding of this in September 1910 the ship was again off duty and served as a convoying ship of the Reservedivision der Ostsee. In the summer of 1911 this temporary squadron was reactivated until the end of September
SMS KAISER FRIEDRICH III did not see active service again until the outbreak of the 1st World War, when she was assigned to 5th squadron. She participated in two advances into the Baltic Sea but with no hostile contact. On 20th November 1915 the final decommissioning of the ship took place. After a short use as a residential ship for prisoners it was used from 1917 onwards as a residential ship for the radio-telegraphy school in Flensburg and later on in Swinemünde. On 6th December 1919 it was withdrawn from the list of warships and in 1920 the SMS KAISER FRIEDRICH III was scrapped in the Nordmole in Kiel. The bow crest with the bust of Emperor Friedrich III however was salvaged and is now on display in the Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr (MHM) in Dresden.
Emperor Wilhelm II’s collection of silver ship’s models
Elaborate silver ship models like the present one were very popular as prestigious gifts for the high nobility and for the high military command; (positions, which in imperial Germany were normally combined in the same person). For instance Emperor Wilhelm II’s own ship’s model collection in the ‘Sternsaal’ of the Berlin imperial residence (Berliner Stadtschloss), transferred in May 1919 to room 2 of the Hohenzollern Museum, (Schloss Monbijou), consisted of fifteen comparable silver ship’s models, all also prestigious gifts from various sources (see: T. Kemper, Schloss Monbijou, op. cit., pp. 223-230, ill. 230). The inventory of ships in Schloss Monbijou also included a silver model of the cutter “Meteor” executed by M. Fadderjahn (Silberwarenfabrik, Berlin) in 1887, a gift to the emperor from the Imperial yacht club (Inv. HM 5066, now lost). At the same time collections of these prestigious models were made by figures and organisations such as the Grand-Duke of Oldenburg, the Berlin admiralty (Marineleitung) and the German Museum in Munich. Unfortunately only a very few models from the emperor’s and from the other collections still remain. His brother Prince Heinrich at least had a modest collection on his own; in his residence Gut Hemmelmark (near Eckernförde) apart of the present model there was a silver model of a medieval ship (a ‘Kogge’), probably made by Prof. Schönauer, which was a gift of the senate of the city of Hamburg to Heinrich Prince of Prussia (the emperor’s brother youngest son, born 9 January 1900, died 1904) on occasion of his baptism.
We gratefully thank Marcus Zamek Photography in Düsseldorf for the photography of this lot and Dr. Stephan Huck of the Deutsches Marinemuseum in Wilhelmshaven for the note on the history of the ship.
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